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September 26, 2007
FINAL: Boston 11, Oakland 6
BOSTON _ It has officially kicked in.
The momentum boost Boston has been waiting for in preparation of the upcoming postseason arrived in fine fashion tonight as the Red Sox dismantled the Oakland Athletics en route to an 11-6 victory at Fenway Park.
With the exception of Julio Lugo, every Red Sox player in the starting lineup registered at least a hit, but it was the top of the order that proved crucial.
The first four hitters – Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell – combined for 10 runs on 12 hits to lead the offensive onslaught.
More to come. . .
Posted by Joe McDonald at 8:28 PM | Permalink
Pregame Notes, Sept. 26
-- Center fielder Coco Crisp will miss his second straight game because of dizziness. Manager Terry Francona said that Crisp, who was scratched from Tuesday night's starting lineup because he was ill, would be examined more fully tomorrow.
"He's not feeling a lot better today. Any time there's an inner ear problem it can lead to a virus so we want to get some answers," said Francona a few minutes ago.
Jacoby Ellsbury will start in center field in place of Crisp as he did Tuesday night.
-- Hideki Okajima has rebounded well from his 40-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday and will pitch in tomorrow night's game against Minnesota, said Francona.
The manager said he may not be used in his customary role, but Francona said the Sox want him back on the mound at some point during the game. Okajima hasn't pitched since giving up four runs in only one-third of an inning against the Yankees on Sept. 14. The left-hander has been strengthening and conditioning his left shoulder since that poor outing.
The Sox don't necessarily need to see him pitch back-to-back days before the playoffs begin next week, said Francona, who added he was expecting Okajima to "pitch a lot in the postseason."
"His arm is probably stronger than it has been since early in the season," said Francona. "He never got to the point he was hurt. He was fatigued."
-- Kevin Youkilis starts at first base today, his first start since Sept 15, when a pitch from the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang struck him on the right wrist.
-- Manny Ramirez reported no ill effects from playing Tuesday night, his first game since leaving an Aug. 28 contest in New York because of a strained left oblique. So Ramirez will start tonight in left field, once again batting second so he can get some quick at-bats and leave early as his body readjusts to playing.
-- Curt Schilling will pitch on Sunday in the regular-season finale, said Francona, dispelling the notion that the veteran right-hander might skip the start so as to be better rested for the postseason.
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:16 PM | Permalink
Starting Lineups, Sept. 26
-- Steven Krasner
Posted by Steven Krasner at 2:14 PM | Permalink
The numbers with and without Manny
Journal photo / Kris Craig
Manny Ramirez singles in his first at-bat on Tuesday night.
Yesterday we mentioned on the Web site the way the offense for the Red Sox basically held up in the absence of Manny Ramirez. After last night's return, Ramirez has now played in 128 of the team's 157 games. Below are a few of the team's numbers in the 128 games with Manny, and in the 29 games without him.
Batting average: .271 without Manny; .279 with Manny
Slugging percentage: .442 without Manny; .441 with Manny
Runs per game: 5.4 without Manny; 5.3 with Manny
But here's the big difference.
Winning percentage: .552 without Manny (16-13); .602 with Manny (77-51).
-Here's what a few quotes from Kevin Youkilis on Manny returning to bat second in the lineup, according to Mike Fine's account in The Patriot Ledger:
"He's hitting second, so I think he's going to move over runners, do the little things. He’s going to play small-ball. He might get a contract extension if he finishes well. He really has to show himself well because he's one of those September call-up type guys."
Right. And, finally, it should have surprised no one that the crowd went nuts for Ramirez last night, despite the not-too-subtle suggestions out there that there's something not on the up-and-up about the amount of time that Ramirez has missed. The fans have always been quick to forgive when it comes to their favorite left fielder.
Posted by Mike McDermott at 1:34 PM to Projo Mannybeingmanny
Projo SoxTalk with McAdam: A very good night, mostly
Click here to listen to today's edition of projo SoxTalk with Sean McAdam. Today's topics: the team feeling better about itself; the plan for Manny the rest of the week; Youkilis still hurting; going to Papelbon in the eighth; Gagne struggles again; and the reason for today's unusual 5 o'clock start time.
Following are some excerpts from Sean's comments.
On Ramirez: "I think, certainly, this afternoon the plan is to have him do the exact same thing: bat high in the order, probably second, to give him as many at-bats early in the game as possible, and then get him out of there. It's all about getting his timing down without exposing him too much, too soon."
On Youkilis: "He admitted that he is not 100 percent ... He said there's still some soreness, a little swelling there [in his wrist] ... I don't think there's going to be 100-percent strength to the wrist for a little while. And it will be interesting to see how that affects his ability to drive the ball. Youkilis is not a home-run hitter, obviously, but he is capable of hitting a lot of doubles, and in the next few days it will be interesting to see how well he seems to be able to hit the ball in the gap, whether he can drive the ball off the wall and really put strong swings on pitches. He indicated that what he was looking for over the next few days was just some steady progression, to the point where he is close to 100 percent by the time the playoffs get going."
Gagne: "He certainly didn't have the kind of problems commanding last night that he did against the Blue Jays [a week ago] ... It kind of looked like he got squeezed a little bit on that walk ... Certainly [he was] not all over the place like he was up in Toronto, but ultimately its results, and 25 pitches to get two outs is not what they're looking for in the eighth inning of close games."
Posted by Mike McDermott at 10:26 AM to McAdam
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Baseball Today: Wednesday, Septemeber 26
|PRAYERS ANSWERED: And suddenly it all seems like it's falling into place for the Red Sox, and at just the right time. The 'new' Curt Schilling (left, Journal photo by Kris Craig) pitches a lot differently than the old one, but the results last night were similar: Six innings, six hits, one run, no walks, six strikeouts. Steven Krasner breaks it all down in his story of the Sox' 7-3 win over the A's (projo.com), which probably cemented Schilling's spot as Boston's No. 2 postseason starter. But wait, there's more. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis returned to the lineup last night, as well; Sean McAdam details their comeback performances, in which Ramirez started the game -- amidst great fanfare -- and Youkilis kind of snuck in as a fifth-inning pinch-hitter. And finally, Hideki Okajima worked a bullpen session and seems over the 'tired arm' that prompted the Sox to shut him down for two weeks; he'll pitch an inning against the Twins Thursday night. (projo.com) All in all, a pretty good night for the Red Sox.
THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: A good night made better by happenings in St. Petersburg, which we'll detail later in our show. A quick preview: The Sox now lead the A.L. East by three games with five to play, and have reduced their magic number for clinching the division to three. The good news -- or at least the beginning of it -- was greeted with raucous, joyous cheers at Fenway, which confused Sox players like Eric Gagne, who aren't quite up to speed on the Boston-New York tong wars. (Boston Herald)
IT'S NOT ALL PEACHES AND CREAM: The Sox have dropped to No. 3 in FoxSports' Power Rankings.
BROTHER ACT: Yes, that was Julio Lugo's brother pitching against him in the eighth inning last night. (Boston Herald) Rudy Lugo's line wasn't much -- two-thirds of an inning, one hit, one walk, two earned runs -- but big brother Julio said, ''It was a good experience for the family, and the whole family was there, too - my mother, all my friends, my sister. Everyone was here to see that happen.'' Rudy walked Julio, the leadoff batter in the eighth, and Julio gave a long stare as he walked to first ''so he knows who's boss.'' Typical big brother.
IF IT'S NOT ONE THING, IT'S ANOTHER: We were worried enough about the karma surrounding Jonathan Papelbon. (projo.com's Sox Blog) Then Red Sox Monster's Dan Lamothe comes across the Sept. 19 Papelbon Scoop. Big guy . . . stick to pitching. Please.
LOOKING BACK: The blog Vegas Watch looks back at the best and worst of April predictions and notes ESPN's Steve Phillips picked the Red Sox to win 82 games. Reminds me of an e-mail I got from a Red Sox fan in late March that read, "Stick a fork in 'em. I do not see this team finishing any higher than third in the division."
RAYS OF HOPE: The rest of the story, from the Sox' point of view, last night was written on the west coast of Florida as those pesky Devil Rays rallied from a 5-0 deficit and beat the Yankees in 10 innings, 7-6. (New York Daily News) The Journal-News' Peter Abraham says the loss means the Yanks ''almost certainly will not win the American League East,'' and that's likely true; a three-game deficit with five to play, when you have no head-to-head matchups with the team you're chasing, is all but insurmountable. It was, writes the New York Post's Kevin Kernan, a grand night for Alex Rodriguez -- who now has 53 homers and 151 RBI after his third-inning grand slam -- but not so grand for Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney, who probably pitched themselves off the playoff roster. (New York Daily News)
The Yankees had champagne on ice, since they could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory or a Tigers loss. But on ice is where it stayed, as Detroit fended off elimination by beating the Twins. (Detroit News) The Yanks will try again tonight.
BACK ON THE PAD: Nor was it a grand night for Roger Clemens, who was shut down for the remainder of the regular season because of a balky hamstring. (New York Post) He insists he'll be ready for the playoffs, though the Yankees say they have no timetable for his return.
MY TREAT: Jason Giambi dropped $5,000 taking the Yankee rookies out to dinner in Tampa Monday night. The only catch was they had to stay in their Wizard-of-Oz hazing costumes. (New York Post) Small price to pay for a $5,000 night out, apparently.
HIP, HIP, JORGE! The New York Observer's Howard Megdal throws a little love towards Jorge Posada.
PROUD OF THEMSELVES: The Devil Rays are patting themselves on the back because of the way they've played against the A.L. elite this month. (Tampa Tribune) The St. Petersburg Times' Gary Shelton thinks the Rays are giving indications they're about ready to move out of Stinkville.
THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS: As all of you know, the biggest controversy hereabouts in recent weeks is the Red Sox' obvious belief -- based on the way they've played things -- that the difference between winning the division and making the playoffs as the wild card simply isn't very big. SI.com's Tom Verducci delves into the issue and points out that ''Teams have figured out that finishing in second place is no different than finishing first when it comes to their postseason chances. Wild-card teams are 26-20 in postseason series -- and in the past five years have accounted for more World Series appearances (six) and more world championships (three) than division winners (four pennants, two championships).'' His suggestion: Add a second wild card in each league -- and a play-in game between wild cards before the Division Series -- to make division races meaningful.
WELL, I LIKE IT: Ian O'Connor, writing on FoxSports.com, lauds the wild card, even if it did make his greatest baseball memory -- the Yankees' playoff win over the Red Sox in 1978 -- something that will never happen again.
A.L. RACES: Save for the wild-card battle, which is now a race in name only, the only thing left undetermined in the American League is playoff seeding. The Indians still have the best record in the league, by one-half game, after their 12-inning win in Seattle. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) The Angels fell a little farther off the pace as they lost to the Rangers; they're continuing to rest some of their regulars in preparation for the postseason. (Los Angeles Daily News) So the seedings now stand (if we count the Yankees as the wild card) Indians/Red Sox/Angels/Yankees, which means if the playoffs began today the matchups would be Boston vs. Los Angeles of Anaheim and Cleveland vs. New York, with the Indians getting to choose whether to play the seven-day or eight-day series. We'd assume they'd pick the eight-day, to maximize their use of C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, which means the Sox would be playing the Angels at Fenway on Thursday and Friday of next week before heading to Anaheim for games Sunday and Monday.
That's how it looks from this space today. It may look a whole lot different in 12 hours.
N.L. RACES: Quickly, since we're coming up on 8:30: The Mets lost to the Nationals (New York Daily News) . . . the Phillies lost to the Braves (Philadelphia Inquirer) . . . the Cubs lost to the Marlins (Chicago Sun-Times) . . . the Brewers beat the Cardinals (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) . . . the Diuamondbacks lost to the Pirates (Arizona Republic) . . . the Rockies beat the Dodgers (Denver Post) . . . and the Padres beat the Giants (San Diego Union-Tribune).
To see how all those games affected the races, check out the divisional standings and wild-card standings. (Projo Stats)
THE STORY CONTINUES: Baseball is still abuzz over the Milton Bradley saga. FoxSports.com's Mark Kriegel thinks the incident is more proof that the umpires, after having been reigned in following the Richie Phillips resignation fiasco, are once again out of control and Mike Winters may have violated ''the integrity of the game'' if he did, indeed, bait Bradley into exploding. Kriegel's colleague Tracy Ringolsby reports Winters was scheduled to work the Padres' season-ending series in Milwaukee this weekend, but MLB may reassign him in light of the incident. Interesting juxtaposition of opinion between the two: Kriegel thinks Winters is more to blame, and Ringolsby blames Bradley. As for Bradley, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Chris Jenkins says the Padres ''wouldn't be just wrong to even consider bringing him back. They'd be crazy.'' He also notes that the unbelievable line that now describes him -- Milton Bradley, injured in mid-tantrum, ejected from game, awaiting suspension -- perfectly encapsulates his troubled career.
PLAYING FOR MORE THAN A POSTSEASON BERTH: Charlie Manuel may need for the Phillies to make the playoffs to keep his job. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
NOT HIM, THOUGH: No matter where the Brewers finish, manager Ned Yost will be back in 2008. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
DECISION MADE? New Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says he will decide manager Jim Tracy's fate in ''a timely manner,'' which may mean Tracy is out. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
QUICKLY: Andruw Jones says he wants to know soon if the Braves intend to attempt to re-sign him; otherwise, he says he'll move on. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) The problem is that Jones' agent, Scott Boras, never does anything quickly, so even if the Braves tell Jones they want him back Boras will probably be shopping Jones around until December or January . . . He's already started, telling the San Jose Mercury News he ''doesn't see how'' the Giants won't bid on Jones . . . The Detroit News' Rob Parker won't be surprised if Gary Sheffield retires . . . Ozzie Guillen says Barry Bonds isn't on his 2008 wish list, but he's not sure if White Sox GM Kenny Williams feels the same way (Chicago Sun-Times) . . . Orioles reliever Danys Baez, who is undergoing ligament-transplant surgery, won't return until 2009 (Baltimore Sun) . . . The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's John Hickey thinks there's a chance the Giants may trade Barry Zito to the Mariners this winter . . . George Brett says he doubts he'd be interested in the Royals' managing job because of the travel involved (Kansas City Star) . . . The Detroit Free Press' Jeff Meade wonders if 2006's success has given Jim Leyland innoculation against a pretty poor 2007 performance . . . Baseball Musing's David Pinto says that when it comes to their managers, the A's ''seems to have missed the part about rewarding success and punishing failure.''
-- ART MARTONE
Posted by Art Martone at 6:50 AM | Permalink